Our dog, Yaku, was unwanted. She was an Askal, a Filipino term used for dirty stray dogs that don’t have any foreign breed in them. She’s also a female dog, which made her previous caretaker dump her in our land out of fear that she will make babies. She was thin, dirty, and small. Nobody saw anything special about Yaku.
Our Doberman dog was the one that found Yaku. He hated her. He barked nonstop hoping that this small pup would go away. When we found her, my partner wanted to send her away for adoption. Yaku was a responsibility. Truthfully, Yaku was another mouth to be fed, but I saw something in this tiny pup. I perceived kindness in her eyes, and an eagerness to give all that she can.
I gave Yaku a chance to show me something deep and meaningful; something I believe any life form can give. I asked my mom for advice if I should keep her. Her response was a silent “Hmmm.” I persuaded my husband to let her stay. At first, my husband didn’t know if we should accept her, but in the end, she won my husband’s heart.
Yaku became a part of our family. Without asking, she started guarding our house. Even though her voice was not as loud as our Doberman dog’s voice, it was firm and full of passion. She laid herself open to us; she trusted and believed that we were good. Every morning she would hug, lick, and smile at me. Not once has she failed to tell me she loved me.
I wasn’t familiar with Askals. I honestly didn’t know how smart or capable they were. The only Askals I knew were those homeless ones who were wandering around the streets and fighting all the time with food. I wasn’t aware that they were not Askals (street dogs), the proper term for them is Asong Pinoy or Aspin (Filipino dog).
Yaku showed me how smart an Aspin is by being able to comprehend me. When I point at something, she understood. When I told her to go home or be still, she knew what to do. She would put her ears down and sit properly when I scolded her using her name. She was smart enough to overpower our big Doberman dog by biting his most delicate areas: his ears and his balls. Indeed, she was as clever as a purebred.
Oh, how brave she was! She would leap anywhere and run through areas where snakes could’ve lived. Most importantly, she was enduring and strong. She almost died a couple of times with severe mange, but she pushed through.
(Me carrying Yaku as she continued to fight through her severe mange. Picture was taken by Stephanus.)
She loved with pure unconditional love. You know, the type of love that forgives and sees the best of people. She was brave enough to open herself up to humans—the same species that abandoned her and threw her away. She didn’t ask for anything special, just food and water and a little hug from time to time.
Sadly, Yaku died. It was a sudden loss. A piece of my soul is still with her, wherever she is now. A piece of her heart is with me, and I will always carry it.
Just like Yaku, every life form is capable of bringing wisdom and awe. If only, just for a second, we let them. However unwanted it is; however small, venomous, invasive, or predatory it is if we let ourselves open to the idea of life—any life—we will realize that everyone deserves a chance to live. Everyone is equal.
“Every life form is capable of bringing wisdom and awe.”
If we let them, they will show us that whatever fear we have over them doesn’t need to lead to our total control in them and extermination. When we remove our fears, we become closer to understanding them, and with understanding comes reverence.
When fear is gone, respect comes naturally. That is the profound lesson my Aspin dog taught me. Suddenly, snakes don’t have to be “evil” for their venom and spiders don’t have to be scary. Rats don’t always have to be useless. Bacteria and fungi don’t have to be automatically eradicated with chemicals.
Let yourself dance around the beauty and pain of every life. Then we will finally start caring not only for our own species but everything else around us.
–For Yaku, my darling Aspin.